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12 Best Things to Do at Lake Mead

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Looking for the best things to do at Lake Mead? This travel guide covers a variety of activities both on the water and on land, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this stunning national recreation area.

A complete list of things to do at Lake Mead would probably be as long as it’s the 750-mile shoreline. I exaggerate, but only for effect.

As the largest reservoir in the country, Lake Mead is a national treasure chest of sandy shorelines and bays perfect for fishing. Swim in crystal blue water, camp and hike surrounded by breathtaking scenery all year round, or boat to the mammoth Hoover Dam.

You can relax and soak up the sun when you need a break from glittering Las Vegas casinos and shows. Many hotels, resorts, and lodges are available.

But you might drive in an RV that will hold all the gear you need. Or you can set up a simple camp under the shimmering night sky so you can count stars and make wishes.

Before you start, check out our list of the best things to do. We picked our activities based on accommodations, likely weather conditions, and accessibility.

Explore The Lake Through Our Lens

We believe that seeing is believing. Here’s a collection of our favorite moments from our experience. These clips are from our numerous trips to this stunning destination, showcasing its natural beauty and various activities. Enjoy!

Image Gallery

Lake Mead National Recreation Area Map

Our activities are ranked based on visitor reviews and our experience visiting Lake Mead National Recreation Area. At about 290 square miles, Lake Mead is enormous, so there’s plenty of space to explore all the great fun the water offers.

To avoid disappointment, it’s highly recommended that you make reservations for rentals and tours ahead of time. Before hopping into these activities, here’s a map with key attractions and activities.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area map showing top attractions

Top Water Activities at Lake Mead

1. Boating

lake Mead, Nevada.

Boating is one of the most popular water sports at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the best way to enjoy the beautiful scenery. You are welcome to bring your own or rent one from one of the marinas. Boats of all types are available, including houseboats.

Houseboats are fantastic here because they are recreational boating and camping on the water. You can rent them easily from the marinas that dot the shore.

Once you’re out on the open water, you know you’ll have a hull of a good time–sorry. Everyone loves boat puns. If you bring your own, you must purchase a vessel pass with your vehicle pass at the entrance.

You must also obtain an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) decal and display it prominently. This rule does not apply to boats registered in Arizona. The water levels can change dramatically and regularly. Check elevation levels before using launch ramps.

If you decide to rent, ensure the marina staff provides safety information. They can get busy, so ask for instructions if you need them. It’s not wise to let them assume you know how to handle a boat if you’re a novice.

And bring food with you. There are no snack shacks on the water. But there are very nice accommodations on land. The Boulder Dam Hotel in Boulder City is a highly-rated hotel with a restaurant and museum.

2. Fishing

Lake Mead Fishing

Lake Mead offers some of the country’s best sport fishing, so pick a spot and try hooking bass, rainbow trout, catfish, sunfish, and crappie. You can fish from several piers or your boat. Since the lake sits between two states, you must know your location and regulations.

Otherwise, fishing is allowed 24 hours a day. You’ll need a Nevada or Arizona fishing license, which can be purchased in town or at the marinas. The marinas will sell fishing supplies and bait if needed. Fish cleaning stations are conveniently located around the lake, too. Fishing guides are excellent, but they don’t come cheap. Use them if you’re serious about catching fish.

Otherwise, wing it and have fun. If you plan to stay near the lake for round-the-clock fishing, an RV park at Boulder Beach is an excellent and convenient option.

But for exceptional accommodations just a few miles away, look at the resort-like Hoover Dam Lodge, which is 3.5 miles from the recreation area and offers free Wi-Fi, flat-screen cable TV, and an outdoor pool for cooling relaxation.

See Related: Travel Insurance Options for Families

3. Rent a Jet Ski

Lake Mead Jet Ski Rentals

One of the more exciting activities to do are the jet ski rentals, which several marinas readily offer. Even though the area is considered a hot desert, the water temperature varies with the seasons.

But you can count on the summers being extraordinarily hot and dry, making the lake perfect for recreation in or on the water. Lots of folks like to explore the Narrows area. The best marina for exploring this pretty part of the lake is Callville Bay.

The marinas will have maps and tips for the best swimming spots. Bring picnic supplies if you see a good place to moor for lunch. Since the lake is so large, you should be able to find a private spot.

Call ahead to the marinas and get their hours of operation so you can plan. You don’t want to arrive just as they are putting everything away. Stay close to the action with a lodge stay nearby Katherine Landing on Lake Mohave.

The Lake Mohave Marina and Lodge offers an on-site bar/lounge and clean, air-conditioned rooms at reasonable rates. It also offers various rentals, RV hookups, and campsites. It has an excellent rating on Kayak.

See Related: Things to Do in the Mojave Desert

4. Kayaking

Lake Mead Kayaking

Kayaking or canoeing are great activities because their size means you’re not competing with other watercraft for space. The waters are calm, and the surrounding mountains are picturesque.

Rentals at the marinas are plentiful, and you can even hire a guide for an exciting tour and have your Instagram photos taken for you. Life jackets are required by law, but the marinas will provide you with those and any instruction you need for a relaxing paddle.

Watch for wildlife and deserted beaches. There are also places to camp if you’d like a fun overnight trip. A few housekeeping notes: there is an entry fee, you should start early, and you’ll need to bring your food and water.

See Related: Things to Do in Arizona

5. Paddle Boarding

Lake Mead Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Desert Adventures / Viator

Paddleboarding anywhere is excellent, but renting a paddleboard here is another level of fun. Taking a guided stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) tour is highly recommended.

With a reservation, a few outfitters will pick you up from your Las Vegas hotel. After a stop for breakfast and to pick up lunch, you’ll ride in an air-conditioned van right to the launch site.

Paddleboards will be ready and waiting for you. The highly trained guides will give you a quick lesson if needed and take you off on a guided tour.

The guides involved with everything to do at Lake Mead National Recreation Area love to point out what they love about the park. They know all the places to see animals, find hidden coves, and the best lore. You’ll learn so much more than if you go it alone.

For an excellent resort experience on the Las Vegas Strip, Vdara Hotel & Spa at ARIA Las Vegas features contemporary suites with kitchenettes. It’s non-smoking and non-gaming, but it’s connected to Bellagio and within walking distance of ARIA. There’s also a rooftop pool.

See Related: Things to Do on the West Coast

Exciting Land Adventures at Lake Mead

The area’s expansive backcountry offers unique hiking and camping opportunities. This eastern Mohave Desert backcountry contains a unique ecosystem best appreciated on foot.

Guided National Park Service ranger tours are available year-round. Summer hikes aren’t recommended during the day due to dangerous heat levels. But the other seasons offer more comfortable temps for an immersive experience in one of the most magnificent landscapes in the world.

6. Hike The Redstone Hiking Trail

The Redstone Hiking Trail offers a unique experience for all ages and fitness levels. When you hike this trail, you get to explore the stunning rock formations of the Mojave Desert. The trail is a 0.5-mile loop near Overton, Nevada, and is usually considered an easy route. It takes about 13 minutes to complete.

You’ll enjoy the desert wilderness, seeing all kinds of plants native to this area. The bright red sandstone formations, shaped by centuries of wind and water, are a sight to behold.

This trail is also perfect for bird-watching. You can look for some of the desert’s unique bird species and appreciate the serene surroundings.

A nearby picnic area is a great spot to relax and enjoy a meal after hiking. Remember to bring your camera; you won’t miss capturing the beauty of the rock formations and expansive views.

Wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water, especially during warmer months. The Mojave Desert can get quite hot, so it’s best to start your hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

7. Walk The Historic Railroad Trail

Historic Railroad Trail tunnel in Lake Mead near Boulder City, textured rocky interior illuminated by sunlight.
Shaun Hunter/Wirestock – stock.adobe.com

The Historic Railroad Trail is a must-visit. This flat, easy path is great for hikers of all levels. You’ll start at the Lake Mead Visitor Center and follow the trail to Hoover Dam. This trail offers exceptional scenic views of both the lake and Boulder Basin.

The trail features five tunnels, each with its charm. Approximately 25 feet wide, these tunnels were originally built for railroad tracks supporting dam construction in the early 20th century.

Walking this trail, you’ll uncover a slice of history. The railroad tracks were dismantled in 1962, but the trail was repurposed in 1992 and extended to connect with the dam in 2007.

Bring your camera for some amazing photo opportunities. The views are especially stunning at sunrise or sunset. Wear good walking shoes, and pack water and snacks.

There are benches along the way if you need a rest. This trail can be a 10-mile round trip, but you can turn back at any point. It’s a wonderful way to experience nature and history in one outing.

8. Bike The River Mountains Loop Trail

Cyclists exploring historic railroad tunnels near Lake Mead on a sunny day
Shaun Hunter/Wirestock – stock.adobe.com
  • Length: 34 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Surface: Paved

If you love biking in the desert, try the River Mountains Loop Trail. This 34-mile paved path takes you around the breathtaking River Mountains. You’ll pass through picturesque spots like Henderson, Boulder City, and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Breathtaking panoramic view from Lake Mead - Lakeview Overlook with rugged mountains and blue sky
Lake Mead overlook view (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

Biking the River Mountains Loop Trail offers incredible scenic views. You’ll see the stunning desert landscape and the shimmering waters. The trail provides a perfect mix of nature and exercise.

Keep an eye out for wildlife. You might spot bighorn sheep, lizards, and various birds. It’s a great chance to connect with nature while getting fresh air.

9. Drive The Northshore Drive

Scenic Northshore Desert Highway near Lake Mead, Nevada
TheColorDana – stock.adobe.com

One of the highlights of this scenic area is the stunning Northshore Road. This scenic drive stretches through the heart of the Mojave Desert and offers breathtaking panoramic views. As you drive along Northshore Road, you’ll encounter incredible desert scenery. The red rock canyons and unique geological formations captivate with their raw beauty.

Take a moment to stop and explore the Northshore Summit Trail, located at Mile 20.6. Though the trail is short, the steep incline leads to a viewpoint that offers a spectacular overlook of the surrounding area.

Enjoy a leisurely afternoon drive, or extend your adventure by visiting places like the Bowl of Fire. With vibrant rock formations, it’s a photographer’s dream.

For a bit of culture, combine your drive with a visit to the Valley of Fire State Park. Just an hour away, it’s famous for its colorful sandstone formations and ancient petroglyphs.

See Related: Do You Need a Rental Car in Las Vegas?

10. Spend the Night Camping

Lake Mead Camping

There are approved camp areas for those with vehicles throughout, and you can stay at one site for up to 15 days. If you’re the adventurous type and are entirely walking, you can camp anywhere in the backcountry unless posted. As it is a national recreation area, you’ll find it meticulously maintained anywhere. But don’t feel you must rough it entirely in the wilderness.

A great option is to set up camp from your car at Boulder Beach, which is easily accessible. The sites are first come, first served. They’re near the lake and launching ramps, and the views can’t be beat.

Neither can the night sky. Be aware that changes in water levels may make a difference in how close you’ll be to everything; the beach is more rocky than sandy. Remember, though, it’s hot in the summer, like triple degrees. But the winters are mild and pleasant.

The spring and fall are fantastic. Always check the weather when planning to sleep out in it. Consider renting a recreational vehicle or RV if tent lodging is not your style. Boulder Beach also offers RV sites.

You’ll get the fun of camping but with more comfortable accommodations. Modern RVs have kitchens and bathrooms with showers, and multiple people can sleep in separate beds.

You can even watch TV at night! That’s pretty darn comfy. Then, open the door the next morning to greet the day on the lake. Can’t you smell the fresh-brewed coffee?

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Southern California

11. Be Amazed by the Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam, Nevada and Arizona
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Nevada 89005, United States

Possibly the most famous dam in the country, the Hoover Dam is an arch-gravity dam constructed of concrete. It spanned the border between Arizona and Nevada and was erected during the Depression between 1931 and 1936. Thousands of workers were involved in its construction, with more than one hundred lives lost.

From this feat of engineering came Lake Mead, which provides water to millions in Nevada, California, Arizona, and even Mexico. Also, no one was buried alive in it. That’s a legend. But the work was dangerous and low-paying, starting at 50 cents an hour. Today, it controls the Colorado River and sends power and water to the southwest.

You can easily drive here from Las Vegas, but tours of the dam are available, which cost money but can be worth it. You can also walk across the bypass for free.

The views of the dam from here are stunning, and you’ll be able to take photos. There is a parking lot so that you can take the pedestrian walkway. If you drive across, you won’t be able to see much. During peak season, the lines for the tour can get long.

But seeing the Hoover Dam is another attractive option to add to your Vegas Vacation. Another hotel choice in Las Vegas is The Venetian. This Italian-themed resort is a fabulous all-suite, full-service hotel in the heart of the famous Strip and features twenty restaurants, bars, and lounges available, as well as a nightclub and casino. Read our full review of staying at The Venetian.

12. Visit The Alan Bible Visitor Center

Dusk view of Lake Mead National Recreation Area entrance sign with passing cars and scenic backdrop.
John – stock.adobe.com

Address: 10 Lakeshore Rd, Boulder City, NV 89005

When you visit, stop by the Alan Bible Visitor Center. This spot is perfect for learning and planning your adventure. The National Park Service rangers are ready to help, and the center has interesting exhibits about the park’s history and environment.

Watching the 20-minute history movie can be a great start to your visit. Bring a picnic and enjoy the tables and grills available outside. The view is fantastic and a relaxing way to spend some time.

The visitor information includes important tips on hiking trails, wildlife, and regulations. It’s useful for planning your trip. The visitor center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more details in advance, call (702) 293-8990.

Take a stroll around the desert gardens outside the visitor center. It’s an easy walk and allows you to spot local wildlife. If your pet is with you, you’ll be glad to know it welcomes pets on a leash. It’s a great place to start your adventure.

How To Get To Lake Mead From Las Vegas

Scenic drive from Las Vegas to Lake Mead, clear skies vibrant landscapes pathway to Hoover Dam
Drive to Lake Mead (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

Lake Mead is just a short drive from the bustling streets of Las Vegas, making it an ideal day trip for some natural beauty. For more exciting day trips from Las Vegas, check out our comprehensive guide to discover hidden gems and popular destinations. First, head out of Las Vegas on I-515 S/US-93 S/US-95 S. Follow signs for Boulder City/Hoover Dam.

After 20 minutes, you’ll take Exit 56B for NV-564 E/Lake Mead Parkway. This road will take you directly to the entrance. Make sure to have cash or a card ready for the entrance fee. Currently, it’s around $25 per vehicle for a day pass.

Driving Tips:

  • Start Early: Leaving Las Vegas early in the morning helps you avoid traffic and gives you more time to explore.
  • Fuel Up: Ensure your vehicle has enough gas. There are limited services once you enter the recreation area.
  • Safety: Keep water and snacks handy, especially during summer. The desert can get very hot.

Best Time To Visit

Aerial panorama of Lake Mead with surrounding desert landscape and clear blue skies
Stunning aerial view of Lake Mead (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

This is a year-round destination, but certain times of the year are better for specific activities. Spring (March to May) and Fall (September to November) are ideal for mild weather. The temperatures range from the 70s to 80s Fahrenheit, making outdoor activities comfortable. You can kayak, hike, or relax by the shore.

Summers get very hot, with temperatures often exceeding 100°F. If you visit during summer, aim for early mornings or late evenings. This is the best time for swimming, as the water is refreshingly cool. Do bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.

The winter months (December to February) are also nice. Although it’s cooler, with temperatures averaging between 40°F and 60°F, it’s quieter. This can be a perfect fishing time or a peaceful boat ride.

Swimming conditions are best during late spring to early fall. The water is warm, and the beaches are less crowded. Do check for any warnings about water conditions before swimming. Here’s a table of the pros and cons by season:

SeasonProsCons
SpringPleasant weather, blooming flowersCan be windy
SummerFor swimmingVery hot
FallCooler, beautiful sceneryCrowded during holiday weekends
WinterSerene, fewer crowdsColder temperatures

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